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A charge of disorderly conduct can vary in severity and is sometimes known as disturbing the peace. The state you live in usually determines the typical definition of disorderly conduct. Sometimes, the police use this charge as a general way to stop disruptive behavior. Depending on the specifics of your case an attorney can help explain to you the charges against you and the various possible defenses to your case.
Disorderly conduct, or breach of the peace, is a fairly common offense largely centered around acts of public mischief, disorder or nuisance. Fighting or brawling, making excessive noise, being loud and belligerent, disrupting a lawful assembly and other acts constitute just some examples of disorderly conduct.
Disorderly conduct also encompasses some crimes of sexual lewdness, lascivious behavior, and other improper sexual conduct. Any instances of disorderly conduct, particularly of this nature, which involve minors as the victim(s) can face charges escalated or aggravated in response.
In rare circumstances, where disorderly conduct is charged at the federal level, disorderly conduct may be charged as a felony offense. In most other cases, disorderly conduct is charged at either the municipal or state level.
Most states consider acts of disorderly conduct to be misdemeanors or infractions. Misdemeanors carry a criminal penalty, while infractions may lead to a civil judgment resulting in fines and a lack of a permanent mark on a criminal record.
The penalty for disorderly conduct varies according to the act committed as well as the jurisdiction.
Disorderly conduct is a charge that can span activities including unlawful begging or panhandling, public drunkenness or intoxication or soliciting or engaging in prostitution. Classified as a misdemeanor, the maximum sentence could be six months in jail as well as a potential fine of up to $1,000.
Most states follow similar sentencing guidelines as they pertain to disorderly conduct or disturbance of the peace, with penalties ranging from 60 days to six months for first-time misdemeanor convictions. If you face an infraction (ticketing) you could face fines of up to $2,000 for most offenses.
While disorderly conduct resulting in an infraction ticket does not necessarily involve a criminal record, a conviction for misdemeanor disorderly conduct does.
The length of time that a disorderly conduct conviction stays on your criminal record largely depends on the state that you were tried in. The conviction could stay on your criminal record until you qualify for, and apply for, a pardon. In certain cases, expunction or expungement may also be possible to scrub your criminal record clean. In some states, sealing your record may also be a viable alternative to expungement or a pardon.
Generally speaking, a criminal conviction remains on your record until you take the time, and hire legal representation, to seek a sealing order, an expungement, an expunction or a pardon.
While lawyers’ fees can fall upon a very long sliding scale, an average amount to expect to pay for legal representation in a disorderly conduct case might be anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000, depending on the particulars. An inexperienced or new lawyer may charge less, and a top firm may charge even more.
It should be remembered that all legal services are not created equally. Be sure to engage in due diligence, researching each firm or attorney you are interested in working with. A less expensive option may not be the best match for your circumstances, and likewise the most expensive firm.
As misdemeanor offenses, disorderly conduct charges typically cost less to defend than felony charges.
If you are facing charges of disorderly conduct or of disturbing the peace, it would be well-advised to seek the services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Securing legal representation before speaking to the authorities, and certainly before proceeding to trial, can increase your chance of planning a successful defense.
Despite frequently being classified as misdemeanor offenses, a conviction for disorderly conduct will leave a lasting mark on your criminal record, and you could still see jail time and severe fines if found guilty. An experienced lawyer can help you plan the best strategy for you.
It is in your best interest to get legal help early on in addressing your situation. There are times when hiring a lawyer quickly is critical to your case, such as if you are charged with a crime. It may also be in your best interest to have a lawyer review the fine print before signing legal documents. A lawyer can also help you get the compensation you deserve if you’ve suffered a serious injury. For issues where money or property is at stake, having a lawyer guide you through the complexities of the legal system can save you time, hassle, and possibly a lot of grief in the long run.
The goal of an initial consultation is to find an attorney you are comfortable working with and someone who can help you understand your options under the law. Seek to understand the relevant legal experience the attorney brings to your case. While it is not realistic to expect an attorney to resolve your legal issue during an initial consultation, you should gain a level of comfort with his/her ability to do so. A good consultation can clarify issues, raise pertinent questions and considerations for your case, and help you make an informed decision towards resolving your legal issue.
Bill by the hour: Many attorneys bill by the hour. How much an attorney bills you per hour will vary based on a number of factors. For instance, an attorney’s hourly fee may fluctuate based on whether that hour is spent representing you in court or doing research on your case. Attorneys in one practice area may bill you more than attorneys in a different practice area.
Contingent fee: Some lawyers will accept payment via contingent fee. In this arrangement, the lawyer receives a percentage of the total monetary recovery if you win your lawsuit. In sum, the lawyer only gets paid if you win. Contingent fee agreements are limited to specific practice areas in civil law.
Flat fee: For “routine” legal work where the attorney generally knows the amount of time and resources necessary to complete the task, he/she may be willing to bill you a flat fee for services performed.
Pro se – This Latin term refers to representing yourself in court instead of hiring professional legal counsel. Pro se representation can occur in either criminal or civil cases.
Statute – Refers to a law created by a legislative body. For example, the laws enacted by Congress are statutes.
Subject matter jurisdiction – Requirement that a particular court have authority to hear the claim based on the specific type of issue brought to the court. For example, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court only has subject matter jurisdiction over bankruptcy filings, therefore it does not have the authority to render binding judgment over other types of cases, such as divorce.